BRANTFORD – There was another clash of ideals on Erie Ave Monday when members of the Mens Fire, HDI director Hazel Hill, the Mohawk Workers and Guswenta Holdings faced off over a proposed development deal that involves land at the corner of Erie Ave and Birkett Lane in Brantford.
The Mohawk Workers and Guswenta have an agreement that would facilitate development on land which is part of the Eagles Nest land claim and part of the original Mohawk land base as part of the Haldimand Proclamation, which is within the Nanfan Treaty and Dish with One Spoon lands.
Brian Porter was on site representing Guswenta Development to field questions from those who are opposing any such development.
Video by David Langer)
The conversation saw the Mohawks Workers and Guswenta accused of not taking the details of the proposed development to the people for their input on the matter. But Porter insists that his company has tried several times to engage all parties including the Confederacy, the HDI, Band Council, and the Men’s Fire, without enough people bothering to come and find out about the project so they could assess the project based on its factual merits.
Hazel Hill was upset that Porters group did not go through the “due process” that the Confederacy and HDI have set up to deal with land usage issues. The Men’s Fire,
made up primarily of Mohawks, were upset that another Mohawk group, the Mohawk Workers, was securing a deal without their involvement.
The Mohawk Workers, on the request of women whom they recognize as a Clan Mothers, stayed off the site in an effort to prevent opposing points of view from turning into something more than a war of words.
Two weeks ago there was a meeting at Kanata Village involving a wide cross section of the Six Nations community where Porter and his partner Steve Charest laid out the details of the proposed agreement with the Mohawk Workers. It turned into an evening of good dialogue. People with differing points of view began to understand what and why the others were doing even if they could not support each others point of view.
It was decided that night that another meeting needed to take place within the Six Nations Reserve Number 40 as soon as possible. That meeting took place last Wednesday at the GREAT Theatre. It led to another meeting the following Friday.
At the end of the two hour session, a vote of support for or against the project continuing was taken. By that time there were only about 25 people in attendance. According to Porter, close to 20 of those poled were in favour.
“This past Wednesday, a meeting was held at the G.R.E.A.T. Theatre,” Porter said. “People came and went, but through the course of the evening there was discussion about what, if anything, should happen next.”
Porter perceives that he got the direction at Friday’s meeting to go ahead with the project.
But those who oppose declared that vote bogus because there were so few people involved in the process.
That all led to Monday’s face-off in Erie Ave.
At 7:30 a.m. cars started to arrive at the contentious site and by 8:30 the group of about 40 gathered along the Erie Ave site, and construction was stopped again.
“What we are trying to say here to these guys is no development,” said Bill Monture of the Men’s Fire. “What they are doing is wrong and they need to rethink it. The Mohawk Workers need to rethink what they are doing too.
We’ve got enough division in our community and this isn’t making it any better. We need to come together and work together.”
After answering questions Porter concluded, “I think there needs to be a little wider communications platform.”
Monture did not believe Porter and the Workers claim that this process would somehow restore it under the Haldimand Deed and out of Ontario Realty Corp’s registration system.
“This land is not coming back under the Haldimand and that 12 acres over there ain’t coming back under the Haldimand either,” said Monture.
He asked Porter directly, “What assurance is there that tomorrow you won’t be here again? If we have to be back again tomorrow, we will. We don’t want to be confiscating Morley’s equipment. Tell Bill Squire and Ellis (Hill) they can’t go around and make private deals.”
Porter answered, “I don’t think there is anything private about this.”
He went on to cite several meeting with all the Six Nations stakeholders including Band Council, the HDI and the Men’s Fire, plus the recent Kanata meeting and subsequent two meeting at Six Nations last week.
At this point Hazel Hill chipped in.
“All you did was provide us (HDI) with a template of a land use agreement,” she said. “You didn’t go through the process. We have no idea if this is a good project or a bad one because we haven’t had an opportunity to look at it.”
Guswenta and the Mohawk Workers have taken a page from a 1997 agreement between Elected Chief Wellington Staats and the City of Brantford, and a sliver land located on Gilkinson Street in Brantford that was gifted from a white couple to Six Nations through the Mohawk Nation.
By contrast, another white Brantford Citizen willed a piece of land on West Street to the Elected Band Council. Recently the city has tried to bill Band Council for back taxes, but are strangely quiet about the Mohawk land.
This has caused Workers’ spokesperson Bill Squire and Guswenta’s Steve Charest and Porter to believe that this is a recognition of the underlying title the Mohawk Nations have on the land through the Haldimand Deed, which they believe belongs to the Mohawks first and Six Nations at large by way of the Mohawks.
“As far as we knew, it was the best document around to try to convey this land,” said Porter.
That idea upset Hazel Hill who shot back, “You are saying that with representatives of the Mohawk Nation? Under whose law? Under what law? They have no representation. They have no authority. Are you saying that six people have the right to relinquish our treaty rights?”
Porter was challenged to bring the proposal before a wider group of the Six Nations as a whole for their input. But he responded by asking why that same process was never used in deals the HDI have made with developers within the Haldimand Tract either. And the same with Band Council deals.
Meanwhile at a house down the street on Birkett Lane gifted to the Mohawk Workers by Guswenta, members of the Mohawk Workers gathered with printed information at the ready for anyone who wanted to see it.
After being assured that construction would not take place that day, the gathering on Erie Ave broke up and Porter retired to the Birkett house to report to the Workers.
It was determined that another attempt should be made to conduct a better advertised public meeting to explain the project and answer questions about it.
Bill Squire believes there are many misconceptions about what this deal could bring. He still believes that finding a way to restore land under the Haldimand Deed would set precedent that could be used up and down the tract.
No further construction attempts were made Tuesday and another Six Nations information meeting was planned with hopes the dissenters would be satisfied this time with the number of people who attended or whether the process would continue indefinitely until they get the results they want to see.another 39 acres developed.